Integrating JIRA and MS Project

A couple of weeks ago I was tasked with setting up an environment where our Project Manager, working with MS Project is able to setup all of the software development tasks and then sync that data with JIRA, the tools used by the development, technical services and QA teams to track their work.  On top of that the executive team wants the ability to monitor progress using MS Project.  They’d like it to work on iPads, Windows, Macs, Androids.  Pretty much everywhere.  Oh, and it should be too costly.

You can do this with MS Project Server and Sharepoint, but as soon as you start down that road there are all kinds of problems not the least of which is the cost which will be well into 5 figures.  So didn’t didn’t go there.

THE PARTS

  • R/W JIRA Users – Using JIRA, Dev, QA and TS log progress and time spent with a browser connection.
  • JIRA Server – We are adding The Connector to the JIRA server to enable synchronization of data between a MS Project and JIRA.
  • R/W Project Manager – A virtual workstation with MS Project 2010 loaded with a JIRA connector.  This system is the only system allowed to write to the .MPP files on Mercury (the file server) and synchronize those files to the JIRA server.
  • File/HTTP Server – The location of the project files.  We will be loading a .NET framework Project Viewer by Housatonic that allows 5 concurrent users read-only access the active files.  The project viewer works just like project, but runs on Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad, etc.  That data is updated by the PM who pulls progress updates from JIRA.
  • R/O Executive – Management with read-only access to the project plan as served up on Mercury.  These user may also access JIRA directly
THE PROCESS
This outlines the workflow.
  1. Project Creation – The PM creates projects in MS Project 2010 on a single workstation and updates JIRA which replicates all of the components of the project onto the JIRA Server.  The project files live on Mercury and are now visible to the executive team through a web browser.
  2. Working on the Project – As users work on the project they use JIRA to log their time and tasks completed sharing notes with other users as needed.
  3. JIRA / Project Synchronization - The data on Mercury does not automatically reflect the data in JIRA. Periodically, the PM will open MS Project and sync up the data.  This will pull the task completed and time worked from JIRA into MS Project.
  4. Reporting – The PM will periodically create reports that include links to the project.  The hyperlinks will cause a project viewer to open allowing management to drill down into details as necessary.
THE COSTS
  • JIRA Connector ($500) – Licence for a single user.
  • JIRA Runs on a CentOS server which we already own.
  • Project Viewer ($400) 5 concurrent licenses.
  • Runs on a Windows Server that we already own. ($0)

OPINION

I love this setup.  I’ll enumerate my thoughts:

  1. I don’t like MS Project, but I understand that Project Managers feel comfortable with it and over time executives have grown up using it.  So I see the need.  I just don’t like paying for multiple copies of MS Project when I don’t have to.
  2. The Project Viewer looks very much like MS Project, but it runs through the web on OSX, Windows, iOS etc.  So, when the executive team are being cool, they can work on iPads.
  3. The JIRA Connector works surprising well.  There are some procedural things you need to keep in mind when working with it due to fact that we have read-write users in both JIRA and MS Project.  These sorts of things are common sense to sysadmins, but need to be discussed with your team.
  4. JIRA is a great tool for software development.  Period.

One other aspect was added to this project now.  Basically, pretty PowerPoint’s are created and converted to PDFs for distribution to those who will be using the ‘Project Viewer’.  Embedded hyperlinks in the .PDF work great when the user needs additional detail.  Just one problem though, If you are using an older MS Office like 2003 it cannot save links in PDFs.  You’ll need 2007 or above and I don’t believe any version of Mac Office can save a hyperlink.

About Jay Farschman - Jay currently works as a Senior Systems Administrator for an asset management company in Colorado where he works with companies that produce hardware, telecommunications software and financial services.  Jay previously owned a consulting company and provided training and consulting services for three Fortune 500 companies and numerous small businesses where he leveraged Linux to provided exceptional value.